Jacob Zuma was sworn in as South Africa's fourth president since the end of apartheid on Saturday after he overcame corruption and sex scandals and reached the nation's highest office.
Zuma was elected president Wednesday by the parliament after his party won a landslide victory in nationwide parliamentary elections last month.
In his speech, watched by thousands from the lawns of the Union Buildings – government residence – on Saturday, the new president promised not to deviate from venerable former President Nelson Mandela's legacy of rebuilding the nation post-apartheid in a spirit of unity and reconciliation.
Fellow South Africans, this is indeed a time of renewal, said Zuma capping almost eight years of animosity between his supporters and those of previous president, Thabo Mbeki, who was asked to resign at the height of a power struggle between supporters of the two.
The ceremony was attended by 30 heads of state. Mr. Mandela was among the dignitaries at the inauguration, the 90-year-old former political prisoner appeared frail. His three wives were also present.
On Saturday, he acknowledged the difficult economic times and that we are beginning to feel the pinch. But he said the foundations of our economy are strong and we need to continue to build on them through more hard work than ever.
Mr. Zuma's populist message of job creation, land reform and rural development, health and education reform, and poverty reduction appealed to many South Africans.
He was elected by parliament Wednesday, after his party won a resounding victory in general elections last month. It capped a comeback for the politician who was fired as South Africa's deputy president in 2005 over a corruption scandal and later fought off corruption and rape charges.
Zuma is an ethnic Zulu whose flamboyant style sits in contrast to more staid predecessors Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.
The president is expected to named his cabinet on Sunday.